- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 23, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL scouting combine began on Tuesday in downtown Indianapolis, which is expected to feature more than 300 of college football’s best athletes and plenty of hype to match.

The week-long event is intense, complete with medical examinations, psychological evaluations, interviews with the media and potential NFL suitors and the much-anticipated physical drills. Don’t forget the Wonderlic test, which uses problem-solving questions to measure intelligence.

Quick, anybody know the average of all of the integers from 17 to 55? Sorry, time’s up.



At the combine, it’s not only about the athletes seeking to improve their stock before April’s NFL draft, but also a chance to hear offseason updates from team executives and personnel. Washington Redskins fans most likely recall coach Jay Gruden, during a brief interview with reporters at Lucas Oil Stadium, declaring Robert Griffin III the starter entering the 2015 season. Of course, much has changed since then for a Redskins team trying to negotiate a deal that will keep Kirk Cousins as the starter following a breakout season.

Redskins fans with keen eyes for combine participants might also recall defensive end Stephen Paea dominating the bench press when he hoisted 225 pounds a combine-record 49 times.

Offensive guard Mitch Petrus recorded 45 reps in 2010. He was drafted by the New York Giants and bounced to the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans until 2012, when he fell out of the league and became a guitarist in the Arkansas-based band Vikings of the North Atlantic.

The point? Such feats of strength don’t always equate to NFL excellence, so take them with a grain of salt. NFL teams are likely doing the same. By now, teams have been scouting these prospects for months and are well-versed in their physical abilities. Last month’s Senior Bowl and other all-star games were also helpful as teams sharpened their profile on prospects.

“It’s T-shirts and shorts at the combine, here it’s football pads,” Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan said before the Senior Bowl. “You know, you got two NFL football staffs coaching them and it’s live action. The bullets start flying right away and it says a lot because the first day, the second day, third day, it’s gonna show character. ‘Cause I mean, these guys are the best and they’re fighting each other and guys back down and guys step up and it’s very important to see that.”

The combine’s formal meetings — teams are allowed 50 15-minute interviews — are invaluable for gauging character and whether a player is a good fit. For some, such as Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, the way they handle these interviews can strongly influence their draft stock. Nkemdiche can expect to be grilled about a December incident in which he fell out of a hotel window. Police also found marijuana cigarettes in his room and he was suspended for the Sugar Bowl.

Nonetheless, there will be an overwhelming wave of excitement in the coming week, whether it’s keeping tabs on Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, a favorite to be the top pick in April, or North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz and his never-ending quest to prove he can keep up with the bad boys of the Bowl Subdivision.

For the Redskins, one of the more pressing need this offseason centers on upgrading the defensive line and linebackers. Yet, as McCloughan noted at the Senior Bowl, every position is subject to review and there will be plenty of talent to sift through at the combine.

• Anthony Gulizia can be reached at agulizia@washingtontimes.com.

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